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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Ind. Decisions - "Supreme Court slams judge for derogatory remarks"

Reporting on yesterday's Supreme Court decision in In the Matter of J.K. (ILB summary here), Marisa Kwiatkowski of the Indianapolis Star has this story today. Some quotes:

In a strongly-worded opinion, the Indiana Supreme Court overturned a child welfare case because of what justices said were repeated derogatory remarks made by Marion Juvenile Court Judge Marilyn Moores.

The case involved a 17-year-old girl whose grandmother locked her out of the house for coming home too late, even though the teen had been at work, according to the Supreme Court opinion filed Tuesday. * * *

From the first few minutes of a hearing about DCS’ petition, Moores expressed impatience with the discussion of a potential overlap between custody in the divorce case and the CHINS proceeding, court records state.

“My hair hurts,” the judge said.

Later, she called the parents’ dispute “completely ridiculous and retarded” and told them to figure it out, so their daughter wouldn’t be affected by “the stupidity that is going on in both of your lives,” according to the Supreme Court opinion.

Moores ordered the parents into mediation to try to work out an agreement, but they did not reach one.

During the next hearing, Moores called the parents “knuckleheads” for failing to reach an agreement. She determined the teen was a child in need of services, over the father’s objections.

Moores told the father “If I were you, I’d waive fact-finding, otherwise you’re going to find your butt finding a new job,” because of what she said would be difficulties in getting his daughter to school.

The father ultimately agreed to the court’s determination.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed Moores’ decision, saying the judge’s statements were blunt but didn’t call her impartiality into question or coerce the father. The appellate court said her statements were meant to emphasize that the CHINS case was the wrong place to deal with divorce-related disputes.

But the Supreme Court disagreed. The court reversed the CHINS determination, saying Moores’ remarks and conduct “breached the court’s duty of impartiality and amount to the coercion of (the) father.”

The Supreme Court also said Moores showed a “repeated implication of being unreceptive and hostile” to the parents, especially when she suggested that the father waive fact-finding.

Because the teen has already turned 18, the Supreme Court noted that the reversal of the CHINS determination “is moot, save the issue of public importance this case presented.” * * *

It is unclear whether the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications will investigate Moores for her conduct in this case. The commission investigates allegations of judicial ethical misconduct and prosecutes violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 13, 2015 01:16 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions